It was 15 degrees at 1pm yesterday, when dozens of nearly naked men and women tore down the long, sandy beach at Coney Island and jumped into the Atlantic Ocean. “Other groups canceled their swims this year because of the cold,” megaphoned the Polar Bear Plunge emcee more than a few times. “But here at Coney Island we always go in the water!”
The number of Polar Bears on this New Year’s Day was indeed considerably fewer than in recent, much more temperate years; two big waves of plungers were followed by a trickle of stragglers yesterday, instead of the usual six or seven large groups. But it was still an impressive showing considering the Arctic Blast that has made even venturing outside unpleasant all week.
The extreme temperature also prompted an increased shoreline presence of firefighters, EMTs and the NYPD Scuba Squad, but they were not forced into action that we witnessed. In other security news, for the first time the Parks Department parked a row of trucks on the Coney boardwalk itself, forming a barrier against any would-be vehicle mayhem.
As usual, there was plenty of pregaming before everyone got all miserable and wet, with DJs, dancing, and drinking providing a festive air to the annual event.